Turtles Diet Care You Need to Know

Feeding your pet turtle properly is the key to its good health, and since different breeds of turtles have different diets, it’s important to know what kind of turtle you have. If you’re not sure, check with the staff at the pet store-or at the turtle breeders-where you bought your turtle, and write down a list of what your particular breed normally eats.

The most common type of turtles kept as pets are aquatic turtles (also called water turtles). In their early years they are chiefly carnivores, so you can feed them chopped-up earthworms, slugs, snails, fish and shrimps still in the shell. As they age, however, aquatic turtles begin consuming more vegetable matter such as dark green leafy vegetables. Whatever their age, they still enjoy hunting, so it’s a good idea to put a tiny live fish (called a “feeder fish”) in its tank once a week. Not only will the chase give your pet needed exercise and protein, but it’s also fascinating to watch!

Many people find that maintaining a supply of feeder fish can be quite expensive over the long haul. Buying “food sticks” can be a good substitute (particularly for aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles) but even that can be pricey over time, so make the food sticks last by mixing them in with the other turtle food-small pieces of lettuce, cabbage, fruit and meat. Don’t get careless and start giving your pet turtle just any old table scraps, however, as that can make it sick. Any kind of processed food is not good for turtles, since they contain lots of preservatives. Watch out also that you don’t give your turtle too much protein: it can cause deformities that will stay with them their entire life. Too much of any kind of food will make them fat, and that’s not good for their health either.

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Variety in their foods is another key to good health; don’t feed your pet turtle the same old thing day in and day out. For example, a diet of nothing but cabbage can cause serious deformities in their shells. And turtles need calcium. They can get this from eating crushed oyster shells or boiled and crushed eggshells. Just be aware that their bodies can’t absorb the calcium unless they get plenty of natural sunlight, or light from a good reptile lamp.

If you happen to notice your turtle has milky-looking eyes or unusual colored blotches on its shell, it’s a good guess that their diet is making them sick. If you notice this, immediately switch to only safe, higher-quality foods. It’ll be a tad more expensive, but it will probably save you an even more expensive trip to the vet-only to have him probably give you the same advice.

Another cause of sickness might be your pet’s water tank: turtles are quite messy eaters and almost always eat in the water, so unless you change their water regularly and flush out their tank, food rotting in the water or wedged between rocks can foul their environment and make them ill. A tip that can save you from having to clean their tank so often is to train them to eat their food in a small, separate water container-which you can then pick up and dispose of more easily. Besides, the main water tank where they swim is where they generally urinate and pass feces, so it’s not best for them to dine in that same water.

Turtles make great pets and can live for fifty years or more if they stay healthy-but it is an ongoing job to keep them well-fed and healthy.

Todd is a Turtle Pet enthusiast. For more information on Turtles Diet, visit


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